Drinking Water Woes Continue In Michigan and California

Photo by Ben Gordon, Flickr-Creative Commons

This week the vulnerabilities in the nation’s drinking water supplies once again came into full view.  In California, a study for the state’s water resources control board revealed that 60% of California’s public water supply wells contain toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS, the so-called forever chemicals. Meanwhile, citizens in Flint, Michigan filed a lawsuit on behalf of 2,600 children claiming that three big banks that were funding a pipeline project caused the city to rely on the Flint River as a temporary water source with an ill-equipped water plant while the new pipeline was being built.

Why This Matters:  Our drinking water is not as clean as it should be in many parts of the country — as Americans deserve it to be.  In Michigan, a state known for its bounteous freshwater, it is unthinkable that people don’t have clean water to drink.  Thousands of children will suffer the consequences of drinking it for their entire lives.  Officials in California acknowledged that the problem is so pervasive they cannot “treat their way out of it.”  The only way to solve the problem for good is by protecting our waters from pollution in the first place.  

PFAS In California

According to the Centers for Disease Control, exposure to PFAS chemicals can cause developmental issues in children, increase the risk of certain cancers, suppress the immune system, and can reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, which is particularly troubling given how we are counting on vaccines to help overcome the pandemic.  Bloomberg News reported that the samples were taken in 2019, and the results “shed new light on the presence of PFAS contamination and areas that could be vulnerable based on proximity to known sources like airports and landfills.”

Lawsuit In Michigan

The Detroit News reported that, as alleged in the lawsuit, if it were not for JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. underwriting a bond sale to pay for the Flint pipeline upgrade, the city would have continued to buy water from Detroit.  The city of Flint did not have the funds to pay to upgrade the plant or to use the Flint River in the interim.  But one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit argues that the banks “knew 100% that if they participated in the bond sale, children would get hurt, children would be brain damaged” but they underwrote the bonds anyway “because of the money that they stood to earn.”  The plaintiffs are seeking a damage award of up to $2 billion.  One of the mothers of a child exposed who has become an activist as a result of the experience told the Detroit News “The banks that put profit over safety need to be held to the same standard as everybody else and they deserve to pay for the lives of lives that they have devastated.”

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